Monday, June 2, 2008
Baristas at a coffee bar near the Palermo train station, April 2007
Since I didn’t have a camera when I went to Sicily, I borrowed Bink’s to snap these women. (Bink takes publishable photos, but she almost never photographs total strangers.)
My species is appalling, but I like people, mostly. Strangers are great, the way they're unadulterated people. For a long time, I liked friends too.
But, as I’ve said before, after my mother shot herself, I prayed that nothing would change and no one would ask anything of me.
I just took a deep breath and held it until an emotional coma set in.
For a long time, that held.
I've written about gradually reawakening over the last couple years (here, for instance). It's mostly been gentle, though that hasn't stopped if from being freaky.
This past week, the last bit of my social shield juddered, tore off, and floated into outer space. That felt bad.
It started when I walked into the coffee shop at 7 a.m. to see a drunk woman sobbing alone at a table.
I spent the morning comforting her while she told me about her life. She wept and vomited and swore she was desperate to take me up on my offer to go to AA with her that afternoon.
If you know addicts, you won't be surprised she didn’t show up.
The next day at the same place, five people talked to me.
Where's this technology-era alienation we hear so much about?
Can't these people see I'm on the computer?
They didn’t just say hi, either, they said interesting-to-me stuff, like:
“I think the Klingon Bird-of-Prey is the best ship, don’t you?” [why, yes, I do];
and, “Did you know the ebola virus first appeared in Congo?” [I didn't, to my shame, having written about Congo];
and, “I’m going to Las Vegas to work a burlesque gig.”
This sort of thing could lead to invitations to dinner.
Where are those shields, Scotty?
I shut down the engines and went home to bed.
For the rest of the week, I went to other coffee shops.
There, other people talked to me. One guy even slapped a sticker on my laptop, adding to the ones from other coffee shops.
I asked Bink, Do I look like the sort of person you can just walk up to and start talking about the ebola virus?
She said yes, these days you do, just like you used to.
Feeling over-exposed, I enacted emergency self-comfort measures:
I let myself arrange my dollar bills so they all faced the same way.
I spent an evening on the couch eating Bit O' Honeys (three) and reading Mark Simpson's Saint Morrissey.
I went to see Monty Python's Spamalot. (Kinda stale.)
I even drank my coffee at home once.
So very cold.
Last night Bink asked if I wanted to go to Dudley Rigg's Sunday Night Improv. She'd even pick me up and pay the dollar ticket for me. I didn't want to, but I said yes.
And there it was.
My species in the raw.
Improv is the ultimate Do It Yourself: the construction of something out of nothing but humanness.
A couple of the acts were fantastic.
What caught me were the ones that weren't. Talk about heroism. These beginners must know they suck, but there's no way to get better but to do it, so they do.
It was also instructive to see what they did wrong:
they held back.
I'd hated feeling skinless all week. Watching the improv, I though, so what? Who doesn't? The best acts run with their shields down anyway.
This morning I went back to my regular coffee place and winged it. I'm alive and I'm awake, so what the hell.